Ukrainian ‘Lily of the Valley’

These days you can definitely call Kyiv one of the most beautiful street art cities in the world. It’s hard …

These days you can definitely call Kyiv one of the most beautiful street art cities in the world. It’s hard to believe that only four years ago, you could count the murals in Ukrainian capital on your fingers. Around this time, in autumn 2014, a beautiful lady found her place in one of the walls in the quiet yard of the Old Town. An Australian artist, Guido van Helten, painted a young woman in Ukrainian embroidery shirt. She holds a delicate lily-of-the-valley bouquet in her hands. Not everyone recognizes her, but she is actually the same woman, who’s pictured on 200 UAH banknote!

Lesya Ukrainka is in top-3 of Ukrainian poets, and the most famous female poet in the country. The stern iron woman image that we often see in the textbook pictures, and on the money banknote, does not adequately represent the personality she had. Undoubtedly, Lesya was an incredibly strong woman, who managed to battle tuberculosis for 30 years of her life. However, she was also beautiful, soft and romantic, deeply in touch with nature.

Larysa Kosach (that’s the real name of the poet) left an unbelievable trail of genuinely important works: poems, plays, letters. She spoke and read 11 languages, which allowed her to work on multiple translations of classic foreign books into Ukrainian. Sentimental and sensitive, she could put her feelings into words in the most fascinating way. If you want to start getting acquainted with her works, one of her most famous plays, the ‘Forest Song‘ is here, translated into English.

Furthermore, Lesya Ukrainka was an outstanding feminist and civil right activist. She saw the only solution for all the problems in the society is in the equality between people in all possible aspects. She rooted for equal opportunities for education and self-development for all people. Last, but not the least, Lesya took all actions she could, to work towards unification and independence of Ukraine.

‘Lily of the Valley’ is one of the poetic works of Lesya Ukrainka, that she wrote as a teenager. It tells the story of the flower, that was picked by force to serve as a dress decoration at the ball and finally withered very quickly. Guido found it a symbolic representation of Lesya’s own biography, pointing out that the woman too, withered way too early because of her disease.   

Guido van Helten created more than one mural in Kyiv and many all over the world. Known for his photorealistic murals, he is also keen in graffiti art and printmaking. You can learn more about him and his works here.

Imagine how many stories behind Kyiv’s murals you don’t know? You can read a little bit more here and here, and definitely learn much more, visiting our Kyiv Unexplored tour. Enjoy!

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